Care home staff in Wakefield face compulsory Covid-19 vaccination
Care home staff could be legally required to have a Covid-19 vaccination under plans being considered by the Government – as figures reveal a quarter of workers in Wakefield have not had their first dose.
Health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that ministers were looking at making jabs compulsory for care home staff across England, but said "no final decision" had been taken.
The plans have emerged amid concerns over a low uptake among workers in elderly care homes in the country – with NHS data revealing 24% had not been by March 14 – the latest available figures.
The picture was similar in Wakefield where 2,007 out of 2,665 eligible staff, including agency workers, had received a first dose – meaning 25% have not had a jab.
That proportion had gone down from the previous week when it was 27%
Across the North East and Yorkshire, 21% of eligible care home workers had not been vaccinated by mid-March.
Care home staff were among the top four priority groups to be offered the vaccine by February 15, according to the Department for Health and Social Care.
The Telegraph first reported the plans to make vaccinations mandatory after obtaining leaked details of a paper submitted to the "Covid O" sub-committee of Cabinet.
Asked about the proposal, Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "That sort of approach is already in place for doctors, they have to have the hepatitis B vaccine, and so there's already a clear precedent and there's a duty of care that people have if you work in an elderly care home."
He added: "There’d be a change in the law required, and so this is something that we're considering but we haven't made a final decision on, and we do want to hear from care homes and indeed care home staff, on this question."
Trade union UNISON said proposed mandatory vaccines "smack of a bygone age or of authoritarian regimes".
General secretary Christina McAnea said: "Everyone wants the pandemic over and vaccinations are the route to normality, but turning the clock back to Victorian times by forcing care workers to be jabbed isn’t the way.
“All those who can have the vaccine should. But the key to getting the numbers up is for employers, unions and the government to work together.
“Instead of leaping to the law, ministers could start by putting the funds behind a targeted advertising campaign aimed at care staff."
She added: “Nervous staff need extra time. They must be encouraged to talk to colleagues who’ve had their jab and be persuaded there's nothing to fear."
Nadra Ahmed, chairman of The National Care Association, which represents care providers, said "cultural reasons" were among the factors behind some care home workers not taking up the vaccine.
She also said anti-vax campaigns along with concerns raised over the AstraZeneca vaccine had not helped the cause.
She said: "We support the view that all care home staff should take up the option of the vaccine, however to make it compulsory at this moment in time might not be the right way forward.
"We should be ensuring they have access to the vaccinations, and all the information they want, so they can make an informed choice."